Playa del Carmen is a small city in Mexico, surrounded by the spectacular natural wonders of the Riviera Maya. The beautiful views and abundance of nature here have captured the attention of resorts, which are now working hard to support the conservation of the flora and fauna that makes this area so special. From relaxed casual hotels to luxurious complexes, check out our guide to the best eco-hotels in Playa del Carmen.
You don’t have to sacrifice luxury for sustainability at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya, an upscale all-inclusive resort nestled amid 206 acres (84ha) of jungle. The resort is split into three separate complexes – two family-friendly, the other adults-only – and each area has a different ambience. The resort’s commitment to the environment is on full display, from the locally sourced ingredients used at each of the eight restaurants to the on-site water recycling plant. More than 18,000 trees were replanted following the hotel’s construction, and there are ongoing programs to protect the local wildlife.
This quirky spot in downtown Playa del Carmen – part hotel, part hostel – has somewhat of a jungle feel, with palms scattered throughout and chunky pieces of driftwood furniture everywhere. If you’re looking for a central spot, look no further. It’s just a few blocks from the beach and a short stroll to Playa’s Fifth Avenue, which is home to dozens of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Start your day with a fresh juice from the on-site vegetarian bistro, or whip up your own creations in the communal kitchen, where you’re sure to meet other like-minded travelers.
Immerse yourself in nature and ancient Mayan history at this unique all-inclusive resort. The hotel is enveloped by lush jungle and there’s a beach on the doorstep. Stays include nature tours and excursions, with some of the most popular being the bike tour and an opportunity to swim in a cenote (sinkhole). You’ll also get free access to an impressive waterpark, complete with dozens of water slides designed for thrill-seekers of all ages. Replenish your energy with a trip to one of the resort’s restaurants, which serve up traditional and international cuisine.
Luxury has a feel-good factor at El Dorado Royale, with sustainability taking top priority at the palm-thatched resort. Each salubrious suite comes with an energy-saving air conditioning unit that helps reduce power consumption by 50 percent, and there’s an on-site water recycling facility. Vegetables served in the smart restaurants come from the hotel’s 70,000sqft (6,500sqm) hydroponic greenhouse, and the sea turtle conservation program is another impressive achievement, with more than 12,000 turtle eggs saved from peril to date.
Bag exclusive access to the Tres Ríos Nature Park in the Riviera Maya with a stay at Hacienda Tres Ríos. During your vacation you’ll have the opportunity to navigate the 326-acre (132ha) park, which includes three distinct ecosystems: jungle, mangrove forests and coastal dunes. Named after its freshwater rivers, the park also includes 10 crystalline cenotes, more than 90 species of animals and 120 species of plants. Hacienda Tres Ríos makes for a very comfortable spot to explore from, with the all-inclusive hotel boasting an impressive spread of amenities, including fine dining restaurants and a classy spa.
Find your zen at this charming glamping site, with cabana-style rooms set amid jungle and manicured gardens. Each tented room features a double bed and quirky Mexican artwork. For a unique experience, book the “bubble tent” – an inflatable tent with a transparent roof so you can look up at the night sky. There is also a loft apartment in the main building for those who don’t fancy sleeping outside. Facilities include a swimming pool and communal kitchen area. Bikes are also free to use, and the beach is a four-minute pedal away.
Blending in with its leafy surroundings, Mahekal Beach Resort has a relaxed atmosphere that will quickly get you in vacation mode. Choose between the barefoot elegance of the hotel’s beach houses, high-end suites or peaceful treehouses surrounded by lush green foliage. There are several open-air bars and restaurants, and poolside Las Olas is a guest favorite, with ceviche, yucca chips and stuffed poblano peppers among the temptations.
Paradise awaits at this top-rated resort, which scores top marks for its first-class service and beach location. There are 41 secluded villas set amid the foliage, each with private plunge pools, sunbathing decks and outdoor showers. Kick off your vacation with a trip to the stunning spa, where massage tables are set next to waterfalls. Treatments feature local and indigenous ingredients as part of the hotel’s sustainability pledge. This promise extends to the restaurants, where innovative Mexican dishes are crafted from locally grown produce.
The environment was taken into consideration back when this resort was built, and the 401 guest rooms are set back from the beach to have less impact on the local wildlife. During your stay at the Fairmont Mayakoba you’re surrounded by nature, with the sea and jungle there to explore. There’s also a lagoon snaking around the luxury property, and boat tours allow you to spot different species of birds and reptiles. Learn more about the flora and fauna on a guided nature walk, and don’t miss the opportunity to snorkel around the Mesoamerican Reef – the second-largest reef in the world.
If you’re looking for a slice of peace, quiet and friendly service, travelers give this spot a thumbs up. The hotel is only one block away from Playa del Carmen’s lively Fifth Avenue, but it’s enveloped by lush gardens that give a secluded feel. Rooms are simply furnished with cute touches including mosaic tiling in the bathrooms and shell lampshades. They also include small kitchenettes and living areas. There is air conditioning, or you can cool off in the hotel’s swimming pool.
This dreamy adults-only resort sits on one of the top 10 beaches of the world, as voted by the Travel Channel. Here, you will find luxurious seafront villas, so you can feel at one with the sea from dawn to dusk. The spa also features overwater, open-air treatment rooms, with the waves acting as your soundtrack. This sophisticated resort prides itself on taking care of the environment, with wildlife conservation programs, energy-saving technologies and water recycling in place.
Heading to Mexico with your other half? Book one of the best honeymoon hotels in Cancún now with Culture Trip. If you’re traveling with the kids, check into one of the top family-friendly hotels in Cancún or one of the best resorts in Playa del Carmen.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Kylie Madry contributed additional reporting to this article.
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